Album reviews

Olivia Murphy Jazz Orchestra – ‘Somewhere, Not So Far Away’

Olivia Murphy Jazz Orchestra – Somewhere, Not So Far Away

(Download only, available from BandCamp. Album  review by Patrick Hadfield)

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Olivia Murphy was a new name to me, so my first impression was of some highly accomplished music, recorded live at Birmingham Symphony Hall earlier this year, just appearing fully formed. In fact, Murphy has already won several awards and has released a series of small group recordings featuring vocalist Becca Wilkins and pianist Olly Chalk, both of whom feature here. Murphy was a saxophone student at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, and has since conducted and been commissioned to write arrangements for the National Youth Jazz Orchestra, and others. Hers is clearly a name to watch out for.

Of the twenty-one musicians who make up the Olivia Murphy Jazz Orchestra – it is indeed a very big band – I was aware of only one before this release, trumpeter Charlotte Keeffe. I’m sure that will change, because there’s a lot of instrumental talent on display here.

In addition to singing lyrics, Wilkins provides sections of atmospheric vocalese, as another voice within the orchestra or duetting with saxes and Jonny Mansfield‘s vibraphone at different points.

Murphy’s arrangements are full of texture and dynamic variation, while leaving lots of space for the soloists and several freer segments. The brass and saxes punctuate the tunes emphatically, punching through with rhythm and style.

In places, her arrangements for brass bring to mind Gil Evans, different sections finishing off lines started by another; elsewhere, the saxes and trombones are reminiscent of Maria Schneider, wistful and moody. There are excellent solos throughout, too. This music is brimming with emotion as well as ideas.

Olivia Murphy is appearing at the London Jazz Festival with the Calum Gourlay Big Band at two shows on Friday 11th November, when she’ll be conducting the band in some of her own compositions as well as joining the sax section for a performance of pieces by Charles Mingus.

Patrick Hadfield lives in Edinburgh, occasionally takes photographs, and sometimes blogs at On the Beat. Twitter: @patrickhadfield


Olivia Murphy – Composer, Bandleader, Conductor

Becca Wilkins – Vocals ,

Flutte/ saxes: Rianna Henriques, Lewis Sallows, George Garford, Jonny Chung, Kyran Matthews, Alicia Gardener-Trejo –

Trumpets: Tom Syson, Alex Astbury, Charlotte Keeffe, Dan Coulthurst

Trombones: Dave Sear, Joe Carnell, Rosie Smithers, Michaias Berlouis

Steve Payne – French Horn, Jonny Mansfield – Vibraphone

Daniel Kemshell – Guitar

Olly Chalk – Piano, Aram Bahmaie – Double Bass, Kai Chareunsy – Drums

LINKS: Somewhere… on Bandcamp

Olivia Murphy’s website

Release date is 28 October 2022

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